Jim is working tonight. He’s working most nights until 1 in the morning now, which means the boys and I are pretty much on our own for dinner. In the two weeks I’ve been nighttime-single-parenting it, we’ve been eating basic, comfort-foody type things most of the time… nothing fancy, nothing expensive. (Especially not since Jim and I sat down and made a list of our monthly expenses vs. our monthly income. We’re thinking we may need to sell one of the children.)
So tonight, I picked something out of a cookbook that was a totally unwise splurge a month or so ago: Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Just a handful of ingredients which we pretty much always have on hand, and which are mostly cheap cheap cheap to replenish. (Flat-leaf parsley was 39 cents a bunch at Winco today. We may be eating this dish every night for a week.)
I expected something serviceable and tasty–Deborah hasn’t let me down yet in the flavor department. But this dish was seriously the best pasta I have had in a long time, if not ever. And it’s vegetarian. And cheap. And made primarily of things that are in your pantry anyway.
So without further ado:
Capellini with Garlic, Parsley and Bread Crumbs
Serves 4 (generously) to 6
Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Chop enough flat-leaf ("Italian") parsley to equal 1/2 cup (or more; I think we ended up with closer to a cup). Grate enough Parmesan, preferably using a Microplane rasp, to equal 1/2 cup. Set parsley and Parmesan aside to wait. (If you’re an OCD type like me, put the parsley to the left of the Parmesan.)
Cut the crusts off a slice of bread and shred it, with your fingers or a blender, into itty-bitty crumbs. In a small, heavy skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until well-crisped. Turn out onto a paper towel and set aside (if OCD, place to right of Parmesan). Wipe out the skillet and put it back on the range with heat shut off.
Chop 4 cloves of garlic (I think I used 5). Combine, in a small cunning glass bowl or other holding device, with 1/2 tsp (or even more; I think I used more like a full teaspoon) of red pepper flakes. Set aside.
When the water begins to boil, turn heat under skillet to medium and add 1/3 c. olive oil. Allow it to heat nicely for a minute or so. Add 1 lb. of capellini to pot of boiling water. (The original recipe called for spaghetti, which probably would have been even better, but we didn’t have any… if you’re using spaghetti, you should probably add it about 3 minutes before starting the skillet heating.) Add garlic and red pepper to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, just until the garlic begins to color. This will only take about a minute. Turn off heat, but keep stirring occasionally to keep garlic from scorching and becoming bitter.
As soon as pasta reaches al dente, drain thoroughly. Return to pot. Add garlic/pepper/olive oil mixture and toss to coat. Add parsley and Parmesan and toss again. Season generous-ishly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in warmed bowls with breadcrumbs piled atop. (See how, if you have all those ingredients lined up left to right in a proper OCD manner, they just flow naturally into the dish in a pleasingly reliable rhythm? Oh yeah.)
For added yumminess and delightful complement of flavor, serve with steamed artichokes (squeeze a lemon into the steaming water) with melted butter and mayonnaise.
And an added bonus for this meal: your children, if they are goofy homeschooled history nerds like my children, will be delighted beyond delight to hear that they’re eating "a meal with traditional Roman flavors." Even the artichokes, though I’m sure a real Roman would blanch at the notion of slathering melted butter on his carciofi. (Hee. That sounds really dirty.)